Question: What is known about the name "Nephi" in the Book of Mormon?

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Question: What is known about the name "Nephi" in the Book of Mormon?

" The name element NPY seems to be the Semitic (i.e., Aramaic, Phoenician) transcription of the Egyptian nfr, a common element of Egyptian personal names"

John Gee, "A Note on the Name Nephi"

John Gee,  Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, (1992)
A Phoenician inscription discovered at Elephantine contains the name of a certain KNPY. This, by itself, is mere trivia, but the scholarly discussion of the name is of interest in connection with the Book of Mormon. F. L. Benz has compiled a list of the personal names in Phoenician inscriptions and their derivations. He sees the name KNPY as the Phoenician form of K3-nfr.w, an attested Egyptian name. This equation was later confirmed by G. Vittmann, who added that the Aramaic spellings KNWP and QNPY were also attested. Further, the Aramaic KNWPY is attested in the Elephantine inscriptions. Vittmann also noted that the name HRNPY, attested in Aramaic inscriptions, was probably Egyptian nh-hr-nfr. The name element NPY seems to be the Semitic (i.e., Aramaic, Phoenician) transcription of the Egyptian nfr, a common element of Egyptian personal names. The medial p in the Semitic form would have been taken as a /f/, so the vocalization of NPY as Nephi poses no problem.

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Paul Y. Hoskisson, "What's in a Name? – Nephi"

Paul Y. Hoskisson,  Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, (2000)
The name Nephi appears to conform to the common Semitic noun pattern CvCCi, where C stands for "consonant," v stands for "vowel," and i stands for itself. This pattern is exemplified by biblical names, such as Zimri and Omri, and by the Book of Mormon name Limhi and possibly Lehi. These names appear to be shortened names of the type well known from North-West Semitic Amorite personal names of the Middle Bronze Age, such as Zimri-Lim. Thus, the root for Nephi should be sought under the following possible consonantal structures or roots: npy, np', n'p, nvp, n'p, or np', where in the case of the name Nephi either the [y], the ['], or the ['] has elided as a consonant. (['] ayin and ['] aleph are consonants that are represented in the Semitic languages but have no corresponding character in the English alphabet.) Present and apparently earlier LDS pronunciation of the name Nephi (i.e., ne-fi) would, however, preclude the root nph/ú, which would require a pronunciation approximating nep-hi.

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Hugh Nibley earlier wrote:

Himni, Korihor, Paanchi, Pakumeni, Sam, Zeezrom, Ham, Manti, Nephi, and Zenoch are all Egyptian hero names.9 Zeniff certainly suggests the name Zainab and its variants, popular among the desert people, of which the feminine form of Zenobia was borne by the most glamorous woman of ancient times next to Cleopatra and that other desert queen, the Queen of Sheba. Recently Beeston has identified Zoram in both its Hebrew and Arabic forms.10 In another old name list, the Tell Taannek list, the elements bin, zik, ra, and -andi are prominent, as in the Book of Mormon.11[1]


Notes

  1. Hugh W. Nibley, An Approach to the Book of Mormon, 3rd edition, (Vol. 6 of the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley), edited by John W. Welch, (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company; Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1988), Chapter 22, references silently removed—consult original for citations.